Copyright Valeri Brainin (1994)

Introduction to a video presentation 

at the 21th World Conference of the ISME in Tampa, Florida, USA, 1994

Ladies and gentlemen!

The film I would like to show you was made in Moscow four years ago. Please excuse the quality of the picture which I am afraid is not very good. The film consists of four extracts from lessons I gave to Russian children. In the first and second extracts the children are four and five years old but already in the pre-school year of instruction at the famous Gnessin Music High School for specially gifted children. The children in this school are selected by means of two tests, the first for the pre-school preparatory class and the second two years later for the first class in the school. I used to teach in the school as well as preparing children privately for school entry. In the course of my teaching I discovered that creative ability and so-called musical ability are two quite different things. The children who passed the entrance examination were not all by any means specially creative musically gifted, but they were specially gifted with regard to understanding the language of music, which is not at all the same thing. This is why the pupils at the school included both really talented musicians and others who had no hope of making a career in music. This only became clear however when they reached adolescence. I came to the conclusion that it should be possible for every child to learn and understand the language of music and not just the specially gifted. Some of the groups of children I taught were completely unselected. For instance those you see in the last extract all lived in the same building and I taught them in the basement, which housed the employees club of the Soviet Academy of Science. In order to motivate the parents I promised a years free tuition to those children who passed the entrance examinations of the Gnessin Music High School. As a result all six of them passed it. You can understand what this means when I tell you that each year only 30 children from the whole of Moscow were selected for admission - approximately forty candidates applying for each place. I do not think that every child should be trained for a musical profession but that the general musical education of our children must be reformed. For I believe that our musical culture is in a very grave crisis. The following metaphor should make this clear. It is nothing to worry about if not everyone can write a good novel, but it is very serious if hardly anyone can understand one. That is why I have developed a special method which I call "A Musical Language Course" or "Development of Musical Thinking", that is suitable not only for children but also for students and includes both a special form of ear-training and a complete theory of music. Some of the relevant ideas you can read about in my articles. A few of my results I am going to present to you now. If I l have enough time at the end I should like to play you tapes of some of my pupils' compositions .